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Tip: Understanding Rank

PEP-Web Tip of the Day

When you do a search, you can sort the results bibliographically alphabetical or by “rank”. What is Rank?

Rank refers to the search engine’s “best guess” as to the relevance of the result to the search you specified. The exact method of ranking used varies a bit depending on the search. In its most basic level, when you specify a single search term, rank looks at the density of the matches for the word in the document, and how close to the beginning of the document they appear as a measure of importance to the paper’s topic. The documents with the most matches and where the term is deemed to have the most importance, have the highest “relevance” and are ranked first (presented first).

When you specify more than one term to appear anywhere in the article, the method is similar, but the search engine looks at how many of those terms appear, and how close together they appear, how close to the beginning of the document, and can even take into account the relative rarity of the search terms and their density in the retrieved file, where infrequent terms count more heavily than common terms.

To see a simple example of this, search for the words (not the phrase, so no quotes):

unconscious communications

Look at the density of matches in each document on the first page of the hits. Then go to the last page of matched documents, and observe the density of matches within the documents.

A more complex search illustrates this nicely with a single page and only 15 matches:

counter*tr* w/25 “liv* out” w/25 enact*

There are a lot of word forms and variants of the words (due to the * wildcards) above that can match, but the proximity (w/25) clause limits the potential for matching. What’s interesting here though is how easily you can see the match density decrease as you view down the short list.

The end result of selecting order by rank is that the search engine’s best “guess” as to which articles are more relevant appear higher on the list than less relevant articles.

For the complete list of tips, see PEP-Web Tips on the PEP-Web support page.

Sandell, R. Blomberg, J. Lazar, A. Carlsson, J. Broberg, J. Schubert, J. (2000). Varieties of Long-Term Outcome Among Patients in Psychoanalysis and Long-Term Psychotherapy: A Review of Findings in the Stockholm Outcome of Psychoanalysis and Psychotherapy Project (Stoppp). Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 81(5):921-942.

(2000). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 81(5):921-942

Varieties of Long-Term Outcome Among Patients in Psychoanalysis and Long-Term Psychotherapy: A Review of Findings in the Stockholm Outcome of Psychoanalysis and Psychotherapy Project (Stoppp)

Rolf Sandell, Johan Blomberg, Anna Lazar, Jan Carlsson, Jeanette Broberg and Johan Schubert

This paper reports the main findings of a large-scale study of subsidised psychoanalysis and long-term psychotherapy. More than 400 people in various phases, before, during and after subsidised psychoanalysis or long-term psychodynamic psychotherapy, were followed up for a period of three years with personal interviews, questionnaires and official statistics. Our analyses revealed progressive improvement the longer patients were in treatment—impressively strong among patients in psychoanalysis—on self-rating measures of symptom distress and morale. Improvement, however, was equally weak in both groups on a self-rating measure of social relations. Dosage factors (treatment duration and session frequency in combination) partly accounted for the outcome differences between those referred to psychoanalysis and those referred to long-term psychotherapy. Attitudes and ideals among therapists and analysts concerning the goals and means of psychotherapy were also associated with patient outcome, although in rather complex ways. A significant part of the outcome differences between patients in psychoanalysis and in psychotherapy could be explained by the adoption, in a large group of therapists, of orthodox psychoanalytic attitudes that seemed to be counterproductive in the practice of psychotherapy but not in psychoanalysis. It is suggested that this effect may be a negative transfer of the psychoanalytic stance into psychotherapeutic practice and that this may be especially pronounced when the attitudes are not backed up by psychoanalytic training.

[This is a summary or excerpt from the full text of the book or article. The full text of the document is available to subscribers.]

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